In West Texas, just off I-20, you can explore an unfamiliar landscape. Resembling a science fiction movie set, Monahans Sandhills West Park has sand dunes that are up to 70 feet high! Because of the fierce wind within the park, some of these dunes are also active. In other words, they constantly shift.
Often, return visitors to this West Texas park find that the sand dunes have moved around between visits.
For dunes to move like this, the wind needs to be strong. It takes a sustained wind of 14 MPH or higher to move sand around a dune. Even then, the sand only moves a few feet off the ground. When grains of sand fall after being blown around, they move other grains of sand, which then get blown around as well. This process is known as saltation.
Over time, grasses and other plants find their way onto the dunes and get established. Their roots keep a dune from shifting. Scientists refer to this process as “stabilizing” a dune. Monahans Sandhills West Park has both active and stabilized dunes.
Photo: @RandyDain via Twenty20
While other parks may have sand dunes, they also tend to be strict about staying on paths, with lots of signage, and even fines for walking off the trail. Monahans Sandhills West Park doesn’t have trails, so you can explore the sand dunes any way you like.
Believe it or not, the park offers sand surfing, so you can slide down a dune riding a plastic disc.
Hikers have plenty of room to walk – the park is 3,840 acres. Even though the park is a desert, there’s plenty to see as you hike. The area has unique wildlife and vegetation. Wildflowers can even be found here. Also, if you have a horse, bring it. The park has an 800-acre equestrian center.
Of course, as in any desert environment, the dunes can get hot in the summer. Be sure to bring more water than you think you’ll need, and dress accordingly. It may be a good idea to pack a compass.
Photo: @dandottaviano via Twenty20
If you would prefer to stick around Dunagan Visitor’s Center, there’s plenty to see around there too. Big picture windows look out over a wildlife watering station, so you may see some animals without taking a hike.
A small museum at the center details the area’s human history. Native Americans lived here thousands of years ago!
Monahans Sandhills West Park also offers 26 campsites. All of these campsites have water and electricity. Seeing the dunes gleam softly in the light of dawn is a vision that you may treasure for the rest of your life.
So when you’re looking for a Texas adventure, consider Monahans Sandhills West Park. It just may be the trip of a lifetime.